Written for the Quidditch League Fanfiction Competition. Thanks to Kristy for being a wonderful beta!
(song) 'Skyscraper' by Demi Lovato (did you ever think you'd read a fanfic about Fenrir Greyback set to a Demi Lovato song?)
(setting) The Ministry of Magic
Word count: 2,925
It wasn't the sort of job Ray Edgecombe thought he'd end up with. It wasn't the sort of job he'd wanted.
But he jogged after Mr. Heath anyway and tried not to crash into those who walked past them through the Ministry corridor. At least he wasn't still wheelchair-bound.
When they entered the room beyond a door of peeling brown paint, Ray found himself in a wide grey space which had clearly once been filled with cubicles. There was a large table in the center, around which hovered a group of stern-looking wizards, many of them Aurors. Ray took a deep breath to steady his nerves.
A stout man with a greying mustache hurriedly stepped forwards to greet Heath. "Carrick, how are you?"
"I'm well, thank you. This is my assistant, Raymond Edgecombe, my sister's nephew."
"Ah, so nice to meet you," the man peered up at Ray with a tired smile. "Fresh out of Hogwarts? I'm Theodore Carrow, once Captain of the Werewolf Capture Unit."
"A pleasure to meet you." Ray determinedly ignored the Hogwarts question.
With a strained smile and a nod, Carrow turned his attention back to Heath and they joined the group around the table.
"Good to see you, Ray," Dawlish grinned at him from nearby. "Shame about not becoming an Auror. Still, it was nice of Heath to give you a chance. The Ministry doesn't usually hire—"
Ray mustered a smile but didn't bother making it look sincere, resisting the urge to touch the scar at the back of his neck. Silence had suddenly fallen over the room, and tension mounted as Carrow stepped towards the door.
Suddenly, the door swung open and two Aurors stepped through, followed by a man dressed in grey Azkaban robes. Two more Aurors brought up the rear, grim expressions on their faces.
The man in grey was muscular, tall and threatening. His face was covered with grey-flecked stubble, scattered with scars, and his eyes were an eerily light shade of blue, gleaming like a wolf's. He looked like he'd lost a lot of weight very recently—Azkaban had that effect on people—but it didn't diminish his terrifying appearance in the least. He stood magically bound, legs slightly spread apart, expression impassive as the Aurors secured the door and he was given a chair, upon which he sat slowly, eyes fixed on Carrow.
"I believe we've met before, Mr. Greyback," Carrow said grimly.
Greyback remained silent for a moment, ground his teeth together, and replied in a deep, raspy voice. "Maybe. I don't remember your name."
Ray didn't need to ask who Greyback was. In his time in St. Mungo's, even as he lay agonizing in his bed, he had heard tales about the new victims in the children's ward. Few survived werewolf attacks, and even fewer survived their first transformation afterwards. Fenrir Greyback had terrorized Yorkshire for years. Ray suppressed a shiver.
"We value your participation in this project," Carrow was saying, distaste evident in his voice.
Greyback smirked, and the tips of his canines emerged from between his lips, looking more like a threat than a smile. "Not many werewolves willing to collaborate with the mighty Ministry, are there?"
Carrow ignored the remark. "This project of ours is an effort on the Ministry's part to find an efficient treatment to lycanthropy that can keep the surrounding population, as well as the werewolf, safe. It involves the implementation of a potion created by Damocles Belby." He nodded towards a thin, dark skinned man with horn-rimmed spectacles who stood nearby. "We're calling it Wolfsbane. You will take a dosage every night of the week leading up to the full moon. I believe tonight is the first of that week?"
Greyback gave a short nod.
Heath stepped forwards and handed Greyback a contract.
"Does it stop the pain?"
"I beg your pardon?"
His jaw clenched. "Does it stop the pain of transforming?"
Carrow cleared his throat. "No, I'm afraid not."
"Of course not," Greyback said between his teeth, and slowly looked over the document he held in his large hand. Finally, he looked up. "This seems like an awfully complicated way of killing me. Not much in your Unit's style, is it, Carrow?"
"I assure you, we fully trust the quality of Mr. Belby's potions," Carrow answered testily.
"Not sure if I trust the quality of your character," Greyback retorted calmly. "But I guess that's neither here nor there." He picked up the quill in his fist and looked around the room. "I hope for your sakes it does work, or you'll learn quite a bit more about werewolves—firsthand."
"We should've brought in a Dementor," Heath growled as he rolled up the signed contract. Greyback had been transferred to his new Ministry quarters—what used to be a holding cell, now much better furnished than anywhere in Azkaban.
"With all due respect, I don't want Dementors meddling with the environment," Carrow said as he pulled his cloak over his shoulders. "We need to see how Wolfsbane acts in ordinary circumstances."
"So you've never tested it on a werewolf?" Heath asked, looking at Damocles Belby.
"I have," Belby replied. "But Mr. Carrow wanted to see the effects for himself, and my werewolf isn't around anymore. I'm sure you won't be disappointed." He turned to Carrow and spoke in a lower voice. "About what we discussed..."
"Ah, yes," Carrow snapped out of his thoughts. "Carrick, Damocles here is in need of an assistant, and I don't want to spare any Aurors..."
"I see." Heath looked around and caught sight of Ray before turning back to the others. "I'm sure Raymond will be happy to assist as needed."
Ray started. He hadn't signed up to assist a potioneer; he had an internship under the Head of the Beast Division, one of the largest and most important divisions of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, and as much as he loathed the job in comparison to his dreams two years ago, he was aghast at the fact that Heath would dispose of him so quickly.
But swallowing down his protests and facing Damocles' expectant eyes, he nodded.
When the first batch of Wolfsbane was finished, Damocles turned to Ray and wordlessly handed him the steaming goblet.
"You want me to take it in?"
"Aurors will be waiting outside, ready to rush in at a moment's notice, of course—but we are the ones who administer the potion, and as you are now my assistant—"
With some exasperation, more than a little frustration and a slowly tightening knot of apprehension coiling in his stomach, Ray took the goblet from Damocles before the man could finish.
But he immediately regretted his quick acquiescence as the door of Greyback's cell closed with a sharp click behind him, and he was suddenly engulfed by static white light and a sudden, primal urge to run.
Greyback was sitting on a chair by a small square table in the middle of the room, an untouched cot in the background opposite from a toilet and a sink. He looked, if possible, even bigger than he had in his first appearance, towering over the small chair's frame, his massive hand resembled a claw as it curled into a fist over the table.
"Well?" said the werewolf, baring his yellow teeth. "You going to stand there all day? Don't worry; I don't bite."
Ray swallowed down his fear and carefully set the goblet on the table by Greyback's elbow, trying not to look at him directly while at the same time trying not to lose sight of him. As if it would be of any use, should Greyback decide to kill him. He stepped back to some modicum of safety and crossed his arms.
"Going to stand there while I drink it, are you?" Greyback picked up the goblet gingerly, eyeing the blue vapor. "Fuck, this stinks like piss." He brought the potion to his mouth, nonetheless, letting out a low growl before taking a quick swig. He grimaced, face contorting as he swallowed, and then spat on the ground. "Tastes like piss, too."
Ray said nothing.
The werewolf made a low sound of derision and then took another gulp of the potion before looking back up again, his eyes straying to Ray's neck. "So, Scrofungulus?"
Ray reflexively reached for his scar. "How—"
"Had an uncle who died of it. It's not pretty. I'm surprised they have you here—you their House-Elf or something? The Ministry's not one to hire crazies."
"I don't need work advice from a murderer of children." His sudden anger the werewolf's words managed to stifle his initial fear. He had spent a year in St. Mungo's believing he would die a violent, disfigured death; he wasn't about to let a monster like Greyback taunt him.
Not many people recognized that the scar on his neck was from treatment for Scrofulungus. It was an unusual disease, rare and plagued with misconceptions. Abraxas Malfoy had gone violently mad, dementia attacking his brain even as the bug did, and Ray would never get over the memory of seeing shackles lying near his bed 'just in case'.
The goblet was almost empty. Greyback's lips curled into a slow smile. "They do like to throw around that title."
"It's what you are."
"Werewolf, murderer… it's all the same to them, sitting on their bloody pedestals sipping their goddamn tea while the rest of us are left to rot." He looked down at the foul-smelling potion, tapping his nail against the metal. "And they call me a killer."
Ray glared at him with disbelief. "You attacked children. On purpose! How's that justified?"
"Who says it's justified?" Greyback asked with amusement, a nasty grin spreading over his face. "They taste heavenly. You'd know if you tried it—maybe you will when the disease catches up with you again, they say it makes people do all sorts of things—but I'm still better than all these pillocks, who'd throw their own kids to the street for being werewolves."
Feeling sick, Ray glanced at the goblet, wishing he could somehow make him drink faster. "I don't need to listen to this."
He let out a rough, barking laugh. "Oh, yes you do. You think you've got a job here? Bullshit. They don't like sick people. They don't like different people. These wizards," he added, raising the goblet to his lips. "They say they're all philanthropists, but it's all a scam. They've got their heads up their arses on purpose."
He drained the potion, expression sour. Ray stepped forwards to take the goblet,and was suddenly yanked forwards, Greyback grasping his wrist painfully. Ray's breath caught in his throat, panic fighting at his lungs.
"As soon as they can, they'll take everything you have, break everything you are. You just watch."
"Just two more nights and I'm done with this shit," Greyback growled the day before the night of his transformation. Ray didn't like to imagine what Greyback must look like as a wolf—he was monstrous enough as a human. "Not sure what I hate more—tasting this fucking thing every day or being in Azkaban."
He chuckled to himself at his own joke. "If only they'd bring along Firewhiskey instead of bloody water. Don't you think it's funny," Greyback added, letting out a twisted kind of smile. "That they just happen to find a 'cure' a week after I go to prison?"
"They've been working on it for a while," Ray bit out. "It's meant to improve the lives of hundreds of people with Lycanthropy."
He snorted. "Oh, call us what we are—werewolves. Fancy names just make it sound stupid. But I wonder what would've happened if the Prophet hadn't reported on that stuff I did; people wouldn't even know who I was. The Ministry wouldn't have had to bother giving me a trial, and I bet none of us would be here."
"They're not out to kill you, if that's what you mean," Ray said with barely contained exasperation.
"Maybe not, but the Ministry's never cared about new potions and all that, 'specially not now that Carrow's Werewolf Capture Unit's been out of commission for years."
"So what are you trying to say?"
"I'm saying that they're scared witless at what'll happen if they put a fully transformed werewolf in a cell in Azkaban around hundreds of convicts. Werewolves are strong—stronger than Dementors. But if this shit works, I bet they can give it to me and tranquilize me." He scowled down at the Wolfsbane. "I say they should just let me transform and it's a win-win situation. The convicts are skinny brats, but I'd make do."
"But you still decided to cooperate. You didn't have to."
"I didn't do it because I give a damn about their experiments—I did it because they promised me a nicer cell."
Ray fidgeted as Greyback drained the goblet. "But this is going to be good for werewolves! It'll help people stop thinking of you as dangerous, and save lots of lives—isn't that what you're all about?"
And then Greyback laughed, genuinely, and it was a terrifying, harsh sound. When he was done, his blue eyes stared at Ray with wry amusement. "Haven't you been listening?"
On the night of the transformation, Ray found himself pushed to the back of the room again.
An invisible window looked into Greyback's cell. Carrow and Heath stood close together at the front, Damocles a little way behind them and the whole group of Aurors whispering to each other and checking their watches as moonrise approached.
No one noticed Ray, except for Dawlish and a few of his old classmates from Hogwarts—people with whom he'd shared dreams of Auror training—who glanced at him constantly and made him wish he could cast a Disillusionment charm on his scar, if only to free himself from the constant reminder. Had he not overcome the disease? Was he not entitled to living like any other human? It was like they thought he was a bomb that was going to explode at any moment.
The moon rose. Ray didn't know what he had been expecting to see when Greyback transformed, but he did know that he hadn't expected it to take so long—or that it would be so painful to watch.
When dawn approached, the tired wizards exited the room, exchanging joyful claps on the back and shaking hands. It had been a success.
The Aurors escorted Greyback out only about half an hour after he had transformed back. They dressed him in new prison robes and bound him as he had arrived, and Ray suspected that the magical binds were mostly responsible for keeping him upright. Still, the werewolf did his best to look alert, teeth bared as he left the cell behind him, flanked by Aurors.
Carrow met with him at the center of the room.
"We appreciate your cooperation with this project," he said. "It has been quite a success."
Greyback said nothing. But Ray met his gaze as he left the room, and he saw a burning rage there.
"What are they going to do with the Wolfsbane now?" Ray asked Heath with some excitement as they left the now completely empty Werewolf Capture Unit offices behind.
"There'll certainly be a lot of paperwork to do," Heath replied. "Mr. Belby is sure to make quite a bit off of the deal with the Ministry, and I along with others higher up will be discussing the possibility of implementing some laws—namely making Wolfsbane obligatory to every werewolf in the country. Or at the very least, werewolves who wish to keep a job."
"So the Ministry will brew and distribute it?"
Heath let out a low laugh. "My boy, can you imagine the amount of resources that would require? No, he instructions will likely be published officially by the Ministry and that will be distributed through the press. I'm sure there will be potioneers happy to prepare Wolfsbane for clients."
"Oh." They reached the lift. It was still early, and the lift was empty. Ray braced himself for balance as the lift raced downwards. "I suppose it'll help make it more accessible—people will be able to brew it themselves."
"Not quite," Heath said. "The potion has Aconite—it could kill you if you brewed it incorrectly. It's hardly beginner's material."
Ray stared. "But then… what's the point?"
"The point?" Heath's eyebrows rose in confusion. "I don't understand what you mean." The lift doors opened and before Ray could even find the words to describe how he felt, Heath had stopped in the Atrium, checking his pocketwatch. "Raymond, we're done for the day; I'll see you in my office tomorrow."
And as Heath walked away, in the opposite direction of the steady trickle of Ministry workers beginning a day of work, Ray stood still as a statue, feeling the scar on his neck prickle with a throbbing reminder.
He wasn't surprised when the next day's Prophet reported that Fenrir Greyback had escaped that very day as he was being transported back to his cell in Azkaban. Ray read about it after receiving the envelope containing his letter of dismissal from the Beast Division. Unreliable, it said. Might wish to consider taking time off to nurse the remnants of your severe disease.
"They don't like it when you speak coherent, like a human being," Greyback had said one day with his twisted grin, after a severely irritated Dawlish had slammed the door behind Ray. "There's no space in this world for people like us—and they'll make sure you remember it."